Johnny Football passes torch to Famous Jameis
The Associated Press | December 16,2013
NEW YORK — Famous Jameis has replaced Johnny Football as the face of college football.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, last year’s winner, finished fifth in the voting and seemed to enjoy a relaxing trip to Manhattan, playing the role of supporting actor to Winston’s leading man.
Manziel was the first freshman to win the Heisman, and it helped turn him into one of the biggest celebrities in sports. Not all the attention he got after winning the award was good.
Winston is now the second freshman to win the Heisman. He has a chance to lead the top-ranked Seminoles to a national championship next month against No. 2 Auburn, though the entire story of his season has included an unsettling chapter.
In many ways, Manziel has been where Winston is headed.
“Life’s going to change,” Manziel said. “This is an extremely big deal.”
Manziel basked in the spotlight after winning the Heisman and decided to live loud and large. His road trips made headlines. His tweets were analyzed. He got tossed from a frat party and overslept a meeting at the Manning Passing Academy. Real potential trouble came when the NCAA looked into whether he signed autographs for money. He got off with a half-game suspension.
“There’s a lot of scrutiny if you don’t walk a fine line,” he said. “I was a little bit uncharacteristic, a little bit out of the box, and I caught some flak for it. Figured it out a little bit as the year went on and continued to live my life and learn as I went along. It was tough, but I had to do it.”
Manziel’s missteps seem quaint considering the allegations that Winston was facing.
Last month, a year-old sexual assault complaint against him became public, and the Tallahassee Police gave the dormant case to the state attorney’s office for a full investigation.
A female Florida State student claimed Winston raped her. Winston’s lawyer said the sex was consensual. The state attorney determined there was not enough evidence to charge Winston, announcing that decision four days before Heisman votes were due.
Winston says he felt vindicated, but also acknowledged needing to grow up some.
“One thing that coach (Jimbo) Fisher has always told me, especially through this process: `For you to be a man, the kid in you must die,”’ Winston said before winning the Heisman on Saturday. “I believe that kid in me has died. I’m always going to have my personality. I’m always going to have my character. But I have to become a man.”
Manziel said he was impressed with the way Winston handled his business on the field while dealing with problems away from it.
“I had to go through controversy and I had to go through some things,” Manziel said. “To see him at such a young age, to put his head down and to focus on his teammates and where they are and where they’re headed ... I do give him a lot of credit for that with all the scrutiny he’s under. I feel like he’s done a tremendous job of focusing on his team and on his family and what matters most.”
Manziel, a third-year junior, can declare for the NFL draft after this season. What could be his last game will be New Year’s Eve against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In his Heisman follow-up season, Manziel’s passing stats improved as he stayed in the pocket more often. Both his completion percentage (69.1) and yards per attempts (9.5) went up.
If he does go pro — and it’d be an upset if he didn’t — he’ll again be the center of attention as one of the most scrutinized players in the draft.
The college game will belong to Winston, and Manziel said he should embrace his newfound fame.
“Live it up. Enjoy it,” Manziel said. “Continue to be yourself and don’t let anybody change from that. You’re going to have to adapt to how life is going to be after this.
“Stay focused. Stay true to yourself and continue to be the person that you are.”